47 Meters Down: Uncaged, 2019.
Directed by Johannes Roberts.
Starring Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Stallone, Brec Bassinger, and John Corbett.
A group of teenage girls go cave diving, unaware that there are great white sharks in the depths.
Given the slew of cheap, CGI-led shark movies we’ve had over the past decade you have to admire Steven Spielberg and what he went through trying to get Jaws made using a fibre glass model shark that didn’t do anything it was supposed to do. How thankful he would be now if he had to make that movie all over again… Yes?
Or no, because like it or not every shark movie that has been released since 1975 will inevitably be compared to Spielberg’s classic and now they’re apparently so easy to make given how many of them we get to buy from the discount shelf of our local supermarkets every week, but easy doesn’t equal quality and apart from the odd decent stab at recreating the fear of giant sharks lurking beneath the surface – Jaws 2, Deep Blue Sea and Jaws: The Revenge (oh, come on…) – there hasn’t really been anything worth avoiding your local beach for since the mid-1970s.
2017’s 47 Meters Down proved to be popular upon release, with its story of two young women trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean watching their air supply dwindle and the giant CGI beasts closing in, but since when did being popular mean something was actually good? In truth, the movie was an okay-ish direct-to-DVD film that got lucky by getting a theatrical release that boosted its profile, but it was enough to earn it a sequel and here we are with 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, more of the same only with a bigger cast, sharks that are blind (which they basically are anyway) and not enough original ideas to float a life raft.
In this unrelated story, Mia (Sophie Nélisse) is a bullied teenager who escapes going on a great white spotting school trip with her tormentors by going cave diving with her step-sister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) and Sasha’s friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine ‘daughter of you-know-who’ Stallone in her feature film debut). The cave they are diving in houses an ancient Mayan city recently discovered by Mia’s explorer father and at present nobody else knows it exists, and given that the girls haven’t told Daddy that they are going to swim around in his pension plan you can see where this is going. However, in amongst the stone columns and historic artefacts there are two great white sharks swimming about, and not only are they great white sharks but they are also blind great white sharks thanks to the absence of light meaning they have evolved with no eyesight. Cue a crumbling pillar falling over to block the girls’ exit and you have your story.
Which sounds like it could be an interesting take on The Descent formula but in order to kick things off the filmmakers decided to have a CGI fish scream underwater to make the girls jump, and hence the ancient pillars begin to tumble and alert the sharks to their presence. So in a tense(ish) moment signalling the inevitable jump scare that you know is coming, writer/director Johannes Roberts – who also helmed the first movie – turns to Finding Nemo for inspiration and has a fish scream. No, it really does scream. Underwater. A screaming fish.
From then on 47 Meters Down: Uncaged falls foul of bland ‘characters’ making dumb decisions to move things along, as well as some questionable acting, even more questionable effects and an ending so ridiculous that it makes The Meg look like a nature documentary. If you have seen The Descent then you can easily predict what is coming next as the four leads go from one life-threatening situation to the next, all the while checking their depleting air supply and hoping that Mia’s dad, who is working under the water a not too far away but is apparently unaware of the two giant sharks that swim in and out of the lost city he has discovered (in a not very deep hole in the ground very close to where the tourists go great white spotting and yet nobody has discovered this cave until now), will be able to be more convincing in his rescue attempt than he is in his line delivery.
47 Meters Down: Uncaged ticks all the boxes for a direct-to-DVD shark thriller with its helpless victims, nonsensical character decisions and dodgy special effects but to give it a bit of praise it isn’t the worst offender you are likely to find in your local supermarket DVD section. There are a couple of effective scares as sharks come out of the darkness either so slowly that you have to rewind to make sure you actually saw them or so quickly that you do genuinely jump. The white-eyed sharks themselves look genuinely creepy when the action is set in the silty gloom of the underground city but once the girls get close to escaping and they move to the surface the limitations of the CGI effects come into view and any sense of fear or dread that may have come with them soon disappears as Deep Blue Sea-level visuals take over, and that movie is over 20 years old. No, it isn’t quite the Syfy-like catastrophe it could have been but there isn’t a lot here to take away that you can’t get from the far more appealing and satisfying double feature of The Descent and Jaws 2.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★